Forum catalogue review

by Nicole Wolf, January 2012

Had they existed at the time of the crime – 3:45 a.m. on 29 June 1992 – the windmills would have been the most important witnesses. But if we listen closely, we might nonetheless recognise a testifying resonance in the motion of their rotors, reverberating the atmosphere of the scene of the crime and its stories: sometimes slow, dragging, and almost still, other times driven with energy and rotating hauntingly loud.
Revision holds our attention like a detective novel that we can’t put down. With seeming lightness and a precisely calculated narrative structure, the film presents a wealth of materials and testifying statements. Thereby our gaze on the homicide in question aggregates and is increasingly sharpened, while simultaneously an immense scope of political responsibilities opens up; remembering them is imperative, today as much as yesterday and tomorrow.

Revision leaves the level of criminology and the documentary and creates a tribunal-like space of negotiation as a cinematic and political event. Working precisely with and at the boundaries of these genres of representation and narration, the film is further able to negotiate the mechanisms of this alternative form of jurisdiction without losing in reflection its focus on the essential. The families of Eudache Calderar and Grigore Velcu – two fathers and husbands killed en route from Romania to Germany – were not relevant for the proceedings of the responsible German justice system, nor was a precise inspection of the scene of the crime: a grain field near Nadrensee, at the German-Polish border and thus in 1992 on the border of the European Union. Calderar and Velcu are two of the 14,687 immigrants who died at the border of the EU between 1988 and 2009 – according to the figures of the NGO Fortress Europe, as reported in the press.

The filmmaker, with his team, did merely what others, for various reasons, failed to do: he researched thoroughly, consulted all the witnesses to be found, reconstructed every apparent detail of the deed at the crime scene itself, and above all he visited the people directly affected by the event: the families and neighbours of the deceased. Along with this responsibility, however, he also recognises the fundamental problem of representation: that in this case and its prior historiography there is no political or legal space, i.e. no subject status, for the deceased and their loved ones, and thus no actual film-aesthetic space within which the existing gaps could simply be closed.

A cinematic tribunal
The film must first create precisely this political space in order to firmly demand a different narration of the case – and consequently of other similar cases. It accomplishes this aim by explicitly making listening into a cinematic and political method. Listening becomes a space, an interstice, within and in front of the screen. Listening becomes a new cinematic site, political space, and process of constituting witnessing. Listening becomes hearing one’s own testimony, becomes a hearing together and commenting within the family, a shared hearing among witnesses, filmmakers, and viewers. We, as viewers, listen and watch in the act of listening. The witnesses thereby constitute themselves by hearing themselves and not through the efforts of the filmmaker or the viewers, who otherwise would act as judges. The film avoids the invocation of the family members as victims without “rights to have rights”, not by collecting and presenting their statements as “raw evidence”, but by constructively appropriating the mediatisation that the circumstances create.

The same method is applied to those whose position in the system already permits them to articulate demands or to remain silent about the system’s possibilities. In this way, every voice results in a multifaceted experience: cinematically material, acoustic, emotional, informative, corporeal and disembodied, aesthetic, and political. Similarly the witnesses’ testimonies are at the same time missing pieces of evidence, material for reconstructing and revising history, ways of expressing oneself, filmed encounters, initiation of talks and negotiations that were never conducted, and examples of very varied textures of how people remember. Along with the memories of “the good things in life”, we also hear who does not need to remember and who sometimes can’t remember because it creates too much headache. All the witnesses whose perspectives are invited into this persisting cinematic tribunal find themselves at another beginning of this story of two deadly shots. This plurality, mediation, and reflection lead away from the representation of an existing judiciary system and precisely thereby make it possible to find one’s own beginnings in this and similar stories. In the stillness after the film we might continue to question, to think, to act, to hear – if we follow the intense resonance of this Revision.

by Nicole Wolf, January 2012